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Playboy MX5 Cup - McAleer Scores Precious Five Bonus Points With Pole In Wet Conditions

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BRASELTON, Oct. 18, 2012: Rain, cool conditions and the pressure of holding the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship lead didn’t phase Stevan McAleer, the Scottish driver living in Putnam Valley, N.Y. who grew up racing in the rain, claiming five bonus points and the pole position for Thursday afternoon’s race.

Though the rain had stopped falling about an hour before the morning session, the track was wet enough to send most of the field out on the BFGoodrich Tires g-Force T/A rubber for rain conditions. Though several drivers took their turn at the top of the charts, when the dust settled it was the No. 28 Blue Mercury Capital/Numerix/CJ Wilson Racing MX-5 in the top spot in 1:51.514 (81.998 mph).

The pole position moves McAleer to 37 points ahead of eighth-starting John Dean’s No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5 and 55 points ahead of fifth-starting Ara Malkhassian with just Thursday afternoon and Friday morning’s races remaining. Malkhassian’s No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 gambled on the BFGoodrich Tires g-Force R1 dry tire, but needed just a slightly longer session for the strategy to pay off.

“Obviously, the rain came that we’ve been wanting all season,” McAleer said. “That track was pretty slick out there, and I definitely think race conditions it could actually be pretty dangerous with the grip. I knew we had the pole lap ‘cause I knew the car was quick and I started to get fairly comfortable after midway. I just managed to hook two or three laps together at the end and steal pole, which obviously we were looking at the five points which is massive for us. Hopefully we can translate that into a podium as well.

“The Scottish racing for the last 10 years has helped, so we adapted to [the rain] and I’m super happy with pole.”

When it comes to earning points in Thursday afternoon’s race, McAleer will have a buffer in the form of CJ Wilson Racing teammate Elliott Skeer. Skeer’s No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco/CJWR MX-5 will start second after a lap of 1:51.998 (81.644 mph).

Dean Copleland’s No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed Inc. MX-5 held the provisional pole on a handful of occasions throughout the half-hour session and will start the race third after a fast lap of 1:52.238 (81.496 mph). Copeland is joined on the second row by Nathanial Sparks’ No. 23 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5 following a lap of 1:52.336 (81.398 mph).

After sitting in pit lane for the early part of the session and waiting for the track to dry, Malkhassian turned a lap of 1:52.511 (81.272 mph) on his final lap as times got quicker. With grip improving as the session wore on, Harrison Williams joined his ALARA teammate on the dry compound, changing tires near the midpoint of the session. His gamble also paid off, as Williams turned a lap of 1:52.871 (81.012 mph) to qualify sixth and earn his best career qualifying position.

Skip Barber Racing School MAZDASPEED Pro Series class championship leader Bryan Hixon earned the five points for his class pole with a time of 1:57.058 (78.115 mph) in the No. 63 MX-5.

The SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup makes a standing start for Round 10 at 4:45 p.m. EDT later Thursday afternoon, followed by the season finale on Friday morning at 8:15 a.m. Friday’s grids and the bonus points for the pole position will be set by the fast lap in Thursday’s race.